1/2 (out of 5)
October 16, 2009
Dylan Walsh as DAVID HARRIS
Sela Ward as SUSAN HARDING
Penn Badgley as MICHAEL HARDING
Amber Heard as KELLY PORTER
Sherry Stringfield as LEAH
Paige Turco as JACKIE KERNS
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Nelson McCormick
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Have you ever read the story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut? Trust me, it’s relevant to the cinematic sewage that is “The Stepfather.” In “Harrison Bergeron,” the government brings everyone to the lowest common denominator of equality by handicapping anyone who is prettier, smarter or stronger than anyone else. To handicap the smart people, they put speakers in your ears that routinely blast loud sounds to break your concentration.
If you’re a smart person equipped with this concentration-breaking gadgets from “Harrison Bergeron,” you might think this movie is okay. However, if you can think past the thirty second mark, the house of cards that is the script dissolves faster than cotton candy in the rain.
It’s not that the basic idea has problems. The original 1987 film is a cult classic, after all. And it’s even based (rather loosely, of course) on a real-life serial killer who jumped from family to family. The problem with the 2009 version of “The Stepfather” exists entirely in its execution.
The story follows David Harris (Dylan Walsh), a psychotic man who targets widows and divorcees. Once he marries them and discovers that they aren’t perfect, he cancels their newspaper delivery, murders everyone and eats some peanut butter on toast. (Seriously, this is the set-up in the first couple minutes of the film.)
When Harris hooks up with the Hardings, the son (Penn Badgley) comes home from military school and is suspicious of his soon-to-be stepfather. No one believes that Harris is a bad dude, even though he goes on a somewhat random killing spree, and eventually plans on canceling their newspaper subscription… and murdering them.
Horror movie characters have rarely been known for their smarts. But even in a film like this, you’d expect someone to pick up on the general warning signs, whether they come early of late. From frame one, there’s no subtlety in the film. The character of David Harris is accompanied by an overbearing “I’m the killer!” soundtrack throughout the movie, blocking any form of suspense.
This movie simply goes through the motions, playing out in a way that is as predictable as non-episodic preschool programming. Even the twists are telegraphed. And if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll get plenty of glimpses of the film’s climax… not that you wouldn’t see it all coming anyway.
Even a modicum of scrutiny on the script will reveal plot holes bigger than the Grand Canyon. Sure, a certain degree of suspension of disbelief is necessary for most films, but you need to forget the basics of human activity to buy into the story of “The Stepfather.”
The movie is saddled with a PG-13 rating, giving us relatively bloodless kills (with the bad guy having a penchant for strangulation and suffocation) and lots of shots of Amber Heard in a bikini and her bra and panties. Seriously, thanks for the eye candy, but watching this movie for the jiggle factor is like going to Hooters because you want to see some breasts. You’re just fooling yourself.
And on top of everything, you would expect a movie titled “The Stepfather” might actually have the character be a stepfather, rather than a live-in boyfriend. But I suppose that “Booty Call Boyfriend” wasn’t as terrifying of a title.
I know this is a lot of hate to heap on a forgettable film that is nothing more than widget filmmaking for the high school crowd, but “The Stepfather” goes beyond the realm of forgiveness by embodying everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today: unoriginality, bait-and-switch T&A, sanitized horror and woeful miscasting.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to cancel this movie’s newspaper subscription and make myself some peanut butter on toast.